Texas Clean Air Matters

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Energy And Water Are Running Out In Texas, But It’s Not Too Late

This post originally appeared on EDF’s Energy Exchange blog.

As we’ve highlighted in previous posts, water and energy regulators often make decisions in silos, despite the inherent connection between these two sectors. Texas is no exception.

Two very important and intertwined events are happening in Texas right now.

First, the state is in the midst of an energy crunch brought on by a dysfunctional electricity market, drought, population growth and extreme summer temperatures. An energy crunch signifies that the available supply of power barely exceeds the projected need (or demand) for electricity. Texas’ insufficient power supply makes the whole electricity system vulnerable to extreme weather events. An especially hot day (with thousands of air conditioning units running at full blast) could push the state over the edge and force the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the institution charged with ensuring grid reliability, to issue rolling blackouts.

Second, Texas is still in the midst of a severe, multi-year drought, forcing state agencies to impose strict water restrictions throughout the state. The drought has already had a devastating impact on surface water and many communities are facing critical water shortages.

Although Texas has always had to deal with extreme weather events, we can anticipate even more intense weather as climate change advances. The new climate ‘normal’ makes extreme heat waves, like the historic 2011 Texas summer, 20 times more likely to occur. These extreme weather events heighten the urgency of the energy-water nexus. Read More »

Posted in Climate Change, Demand Response, Drought, Energy Efficiency, Energy-Water Nexus, Environment, ERCOT, Extreme Weather, Renewable Energy, TCEQ, Texas Energy Crunch, Utilities / Also tagged | Comments are closed

What Does It Mean For Energy Efficiency To Be A Resource In Texas?

This commentary originally appeared on EDF’s Energy Exchange blog.

We’ve discussed the potentially grave impacts of the Texas Energy Crunch in a number of our previous blog posts. Time and time again, we repeat that the cheapest, cleanest and most reliable energy resource is the energy we save through energy efficiency. But our energy efficiency programs in Texas are still modest compared to other states. Beyond politics, there is another key issue limiting our state’s energy savings: Texas does not treat energy efficiency as a ‘resource.’

Traditionally, energy efficiency is left ‘invisible’ to utilities and grid planners—so they lose count of its many benefits. Treating energy efficiency as a resource, instead, puts it on a level playing field with other energy resources, such as power plants. This allows utilities to realize the unique benefits energy efficiency has over other energy sources.

Energy efficiency can reduce harmful greenhouse gases, save people money and create jobs – and it is extremely competitive with other energy resources. When the energy saved through efficiency is weighed against new energy resources, efficiency upgrades to buildings and homes generally weigh in at just one-third of the cost of building a new fossil-fuel power plant. On top of that, energy efficiency upgrades can eliminate the need to install or replace other expensive electric grid equipment. This cost-savings is one of the many benefits generally overlooked by utilities and electric grid planners.

Part of what prevents electric grid planners from counting efficiency as a resource in Texas is the way that the energy market is structured. When Texas deregulated its energy market in 1999, the aim was to increase options for customers and lower prices. Efficiency programs were not included in the new market structure. Instead, they were left for transmission and distribution utilities (TDUs), the “wires” companies that deliver electricity from power plants to customers, to manage. With efficiency left out of the restructured energy market, the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) and other state leaders tend to view efficiency programs as subsidies that exist outside of the market. Read More »

Posted in Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, ERCOT, Smart Grid, Texas Energy Crunch, Utilities / Also tagged , , , , | Comments are closed

New Commissioner Should Push For More Energy Efficiency In Texas

This commentary originally appeared on EDF’s Energy Exchange blog.

This week the Texas Legislature convened for its third Special Session in a row, yet the state’s electricity market still sits at a crossroads.  The Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC), Texas’ governing body for electricity, has been at a stalemate since Commissioner Rolando Pablos stepped down in February.  The two remaining commissioners, Chairman Donna Nelson and Ken Anderson, seem to be waiting on a third deciding member to step up and address the looming Texas Energy Crunch.  With the PUC divided and the legislature nearly adjourned, the state looks to Governor Perry to appoint a third commissioner to the PUC—breaking the longstanding stalemate on Texas’ power supply.

When appointed, the new commissioner will be in unique position to champion innovative, common-sense solutions to solve the Texas Energy Crunch.  One of the most expedient and cost-effective ways to bolster the state’s electricity supply is to reduce the amount of energy needed to fuel our commercial buildings and homes through energy efficiency upgrades.  In an upcoming post, I’ll discuss innovative ways to weigh the benefits of energy efficiency upgrades versus new fossil-fueled power plants.  For now, though, let’s review where energy efficiency stands in Texas today.

Read More »

Posted in Energy Efficiency, ERCOT, Green Jobs, Texas Energy Crunch, Utilities / Also tagged , , , , , , | Comments are closed